As thoughts of domestic terrorism and police violence intrude on those in “safer” communities, we always need to be reminded that the specter of violence has always lurked in the communities RISE has served since 2003. Five students in our programs have lost their lives to gun violence; I mention three of them in posts here, here, and here.
For several years I have been mentoring two seniors at Anacostia High who are victims. One student first lost his father, then his stepfather, to gunshots. The other young man recently witnessed a murder outside his apartment building the night before I was to pick him up for pizza--a murder, incidentally, that was not reported in the local news. When I arrived at the apartment complex at noon the next day, I was blocked by fire trucks which were washing away the blood of the victim who had lain on the ground for hours.
Amazingly, and no doubt thanks to supporters of RISE, these young men have positive outlooks and are headed for college. They could not be more different. One has a reading disability but has been lifted up by the WordSTARS program, and the other is a young man with incredible gifts: A MATHlete, he is captain of his basketball team and will be choosing from top ten historically black colleges. Would our second young man be on the road to success without RISE? I’m not sure. On Christmas Day he called us “lifesavers” in a text message to me.
Our country may becoming more fearful and less optimistic, but supporters of RISE should take solace that RISE’s work results in more and more young people confident in their futures and with better outcomes after high school.